Tag Archives: Naifeh

Tributes to Lois DeBerry

Here are some comments on the passing of state Rep. Lois DeBerry:

From House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh:

“I have known Lois DeBerry since 1974 when I was first elected to the House of Representatives. She had been elected just two years earlier and we were best friends from the very beginning. 

“Lois is a true Tennessee stateswoman. In the Legislature she led the way on a number of issues important to all Tennesseans including healthcare, education, corrections oversight, and economic development. The Lois DeBerry Center in Nashville, named after her, revolutionized the way we dealt with our incarcerated population and she deserves much of the credit for bringing our prison system out from under federal oversight and into the 21st century.  

She served with, worked with and provided advice not only to legislators but also to seven Tennessee Governors including Governors Haslam, Bredesen, Sundquist, McWherter, Alexander, Blanton and Dunn.  They all respected her opinion and listened closely to her advice.   

During my 18 years as Speaker of the House, Lois served as Speaker Pro Tempore–the first African American woman to fill this role. She was my constant helpmate and someone I could count on during those difficult days in the legislature. In 2000, the National Conference of State Legislators recognized Lois with the William Bulger Award for Legislative Leadership. This prestigious prize is given to one legislator each year who promotes the good of legislative institutions by displaying real leadership qualities, including honesty, integrity and hard work. That was the Lois we all knew. 

 Lois loved this state. She loved the people of this state.  She was the voice for people all across this state, who could not speak out for themselves in our governmental process; the poor, the oppressed, the proverbial people standing in the shadows of life.   She rebuffed repeated calls to run for higher office. In 1994 she even turned down a prestigious federal appointment from President Clinton, telling him that her work in Tennessee was simply not finished. 

I will miss Lois DeBerry. I will miss sitting with her on the floor of the House Chamber. I will miss her laughter and her great sense of humor that I saw so often in our daily discussions. I will miss her example and her leadership for our state. But most of all, I will miss my best friend.”

From House Speaker Beth Harwell:

“Lois DeBerry dedicated her life to service. From the Civil Rights Movement, to becoming the first female African-American Speaker Pro Tempore, Lois always made public service a priority. The impact she has had on this great state, the lives of countless Tennesseans, and people all across the country is astounding. She certainly made her mark on history, and it was an honor to know her and serve alongside her in Tennessee General Assembly. I valued our friendship, and will deeply miss her sage advice, and her remarkable sprit and smile. Her dedication to children’s issues, women’s issues, and criminal justice reform have resulted in a better Tennessee. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

From House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh:

“Lois DeBerry was my friend and my mentor. From my first day on the hill in 1994, she was someone I could turn to in every situation. She taught me the importance of working across party lines to get things done for the state, but also to never be afraid to stand up for a cause–even if sometimes you stand alone. Lois was a fighter. She always fought and fought hardest for children. She fought for those on the margins of society and for the city of Memphis which she loved so dearly. Most recently she waged a courageous battle against cancer, inspiring everyone with her upbeat attitude and her determination to survive. I loved Lois DeBerry. Her absence will leave a hole in the House that no one can fill; we are a better state for the service she provided. God rest her soul and be with her family during this difficult time.”

From Gov. Bill Haslam:

Coming in as a new governor, Lois quickly became one of my favorite people on Capitol Hill because of her wit, charm and dedication to her constituents. Lois was a history maker, a wonderful woman, a great legislator and a true friend. I will miss her.”

From Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron:

“Speaker Lois DeBerry was one of America’s Heroes and one of God’s Saints. “So many of us owe her so much. Speaker DeBerry led, she inspired, she witnessed with a spirit filled with The Spirit.
“Much will be said in the days ahead. Not enough can be said. We mourn her passing and celebrate her life.”
From U.S. Sen. Bob Corker:
“Lois DeBerry will be remembered as a tireless advocate for her community, and as one of the longest-serving women lawmakers in the nation and the first African-American female speaker pro tempore in the House, Lois’ legacy will be remembered in Memphis and across our state for generations to come,” said Corker. “I appreciate her many years of public service and her friendship and kindness. My heart goes out to her family during this difficult time.”
From Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle:
“Lois DeBerry was a peerless leader for her community, her city and for all women. It’s a uniquely American story – a woman who became frustrated with the conditions in her community and dedicated her life to making it better, rising to heights that no African American woman had seen before in Tennessee. We are deeply saddened by her passing.”
From Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney:
“Before I ever ran for office, I was motivated and inspired by the leadership of Lois DeBerry. She intentionally focused on tough issues, daring others to join her, and by her words could inspire people to take action and get involved. Tennessee has lost a great leader today.”
From House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Speaker Pro Tempore Emeritus Lois DeBerry, a legendary figure in Tennessee political history. I had the distinct privilege to serve with Lois in the House of Representatives for 9 years and I enjoyed our friendship. Her knowledge, experience and delightful personality will surely be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (via CA story, HERE)
“Forget Democrat. Forget African-American. Forget state legislator. Lois is one of the individuals I trust the most for her counsel and advice,”
 

Farewell ‘Junket’ Cost to Taxpayers: $13,388

As a parting gift before leaving the state Legislature, five outgoing lawmakers spent more than $13,000 of taxpayer money to go on a four-day junket to Chicago, according a TNReport review of state records.
Taxpayers are covering the costs for everything from airfare and mileage to staying in $227-a-night hotels and taking $40 taxi cab rides during the trip. The registration fees were as high as $615 per person for the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in August. Some of the lawmakers, who had been defeated at the ballot box or announced their retirement, claimed five and six days’ per diem at $173 per day.
For lawmakers who knew at the time they would leave office after the November election, those bills amount to a taxpayer-funded “retirement party,” one critic said.
“People who serve in the Legislature for long periods of time tend to get a sense of entitlement about what the taxpayers owe them,” said Ben Cunningham, spokesman for Tennessee Tax Revolt, a taxpayer advocacy group.
What’s worse, he said, is that the speakers of both chambers signed off on the $13,388 worth of expense reports.
,,,The outgoing lawmakers are House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, who lost their primaries on Aug. 2, four days before the conference, and retiring lawmakers Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.


Note: The article referenced above is, I think, the last story filed by Andrea Zelinski for TNReport. She’s moving to The City Paper, where she will continue to report on state government and political stuff, after a week or so vacation with her husband. The move has inspired some commentary — HERE, for Betsy Phillips, who is glad there’s a woman around among the dwindling Tennessee Capitol Hill Press Corps. I’m glad she’ll be around, too — not because she’s female, but because she’s a relatively fresh face compared to us old coots and is cool, competent and professional while actually paying a lot of attention to the ongoing process.

A Jimmy Naifeh Farewell

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh made a pitch for civility in farewell remarks to the House as the 107th adjourned, reports Richard Locker.
Naifeh, 72, a Democrat first elected in 1974 and who served as House speaker longer than anyone in Tennessee history — 18 years — gave a brief farewell to his colleagues and received an ovation on both sides of the aisle. He acknowledged the Republicans’ rise to power, commended Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and encouraged civility.
“It is time for changes because the elections told us two years ago that they wanted this particular leadership in place. The Republicans have the votes and we’re following along best as we can,” he said.
“One thing I’m going to leave you with is, when we’re in committee and we’re debating very hard and you’re upset with each other, make sure you leave it in that room. Especially when you’re up here on the floor and when you get into hot debate, when you walk out this door here, leave it in here. You’ll find it helps a whole lot,” said Naifeh.

House Floor ‘Ghost Voting’ Gets TV Attention

The practice of state legislators casting votes for absent colleagues is known as “ghost voting,” reports WTVF-TV, and “happens in the House chambers probably a lot more often than you think.”
Last year, Tennessee lawmakers passed the controversial voter ID law aimed at eliminating voter fraud.
At the time the legislation was up for consideration, Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, told other House members, “You should be who you say you are when you go vote.”
But when it comes to their own votes, we found House members not only vote for themselves, they also vote for others who are not in their seats. And, sometimes, believe it or not, they even vote for members who are not even there.
Political watchdog and radio talk show host Steve Gill had no idea this was going on.
“I think this is a fraud on the taxpayers,” Gill told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. “I think this is a fraud on the people of Tennessee.
“That’s not what they were sent there to do.”
But Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, insists it’s no big deal.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Ford, “You don’t think this is important?”
“No,” he replied. “This is neither illegal or immoral. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s done all of the time.”
It’s such a common practice in the House, in fact, that many lawmakers have sticks they use to reach each others’ voting buttons.

New Normal Role Reversal: The House is the Senate

One curiosity in the new normal of Republican rule in the General Assembly seems to be a role reversal of the House and Senate in institutional attitude.
In the old normal, senators would harrumph at length on a bipartisan basis about being members of “deliberative body” of ladies and gentlemen while viewing the House with some disdain as a bunch of chest-thumping, lock-stepping good ole boys and girls.
Representative, in turn, regard senators disdainfully as something of an elitist debating society, foolishly dithering away hours and days in arcane arguments over the minutia of mundane matters.
In the new normal, the House has become the deliberative body while the Senate is home of the Republican lockstep railroad.
Perhaps the best current example is handing of Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to abolish the current civil service system and replace it with a new, merit-based plan for state employees. As for long-term impact on the operation of state government, it is probably the most significant and complex piece of legislation considered this year.

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House Sub Kills Bill To Let More Teachers Get Tenure

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow teachers to qualify for tenure if they “meet expectations” on their evaluations is likely dead this session.
The measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington failed 7-5 in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Education Committee.
Under the state’s new teacher evaluation system, teachers can gain tenure only if they score in the top two ratings two consecutive years. A three on the five-point rating scale is “meets expectations.”
The proposal would allow teachers who meet expectations or above in the last two years of the probationary period to receive tenure.
Critics of the new system have included the tenure change in a list of recommended changes to the process.

Jackson Day: ‘The Re-birth of the Tennessee Democratic Party’ (and memories of the old)

In a Bicentennial Mall event that had a strong pro-union flavor, the Tennessee Democratic Party hosted around 700 people at its annual Jackson Day dinner, mixing shots at Republican candidates for president with cries for more pride in what Democrats believe in, reports The Tennessean.
Chairman Chip Forrester led the call for “A New Path Forward,” calling for an “all-inclusive values party” that better incorporates the Latino, black and female contingents of the party.
“The re-birth of the Tennessee Democratic Party … begins tonight,” he said.
Forrester took direct aim at presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for his “vision of government that rewards the top 1 percent,” and for wanting to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
Speakers throughout the evening highlighted Democrats’ commitment to education and labor. The event was largely attended and sponsored by labor factions, including local Teamster and AFL-CIO officials, but also the American Federation of Teachers and United Steelworkers.
Forrester, in recognition of those present in the audience, called labor the “backbone of the Democratic Party.” Actress Park Overall criticized Republicans for making “union” a dirty word.
“The Republicans are stealing your language and they are stealing your country word by word,” she said. Overall said her parents had an AFL-CIO ashtray in her house and shouted out, “Where is the Democratic Party of my parents? Are they here?” to unified cheers and applause.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean provided the opening remarks, using the platform to stress Nashville’s current growth at a time of global economic hardship. He also emphasized the city’s potential in the hands of its youth. “We have a moral obligation that every child — and I mean every child — has a chance to succeed in life, whatever it takes,” he said.
Former state House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, who was honored with the Ned McWherter Legacy Award, believes an emphasis on education separates Democrats from Republicans. Naifeh said on stage that if one watches an education committee meeting, it is evident that “we are looking after the children.” Republicans, meanwhile, are “ruining public education,” he said.
State Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, who is running for Congress in November, praised the former speaker and the man the award is named after.
“Ned will be always be my governor,” Stewart said. “Jimmy will always be my speaker.”

Naifeh to Receive TN Democratic Party Legacy Award

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE – For 38 years, Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh has served the 81st House District with honor and distinction, 18 of those years were as one of the most effective and revered Speakers in Tennessee history. Last week after a lifetime of serving the district and state, Speaker Naifeh announced he would be stepping aside to make way for the next generation of leaders who will seek to follow in his footsteps.
On March 31st the Tennessee Democratic Party will honor Speaker Naifeh’s service with the Governor Ned Ray McWherter TNDP Legacy Award at our annual Jackson Day Dinner. In 2011 we were proud to honor Speaker Pro-Tem Emeritus Lois DeBerry with this award, and now we are proud to honor the man she calls her mentor and close friend.
“Throughout his many years of service, Speaker Naifeh has worked hard to mentor a generation of lawmakers in the art of representing their districts and the people of Tennessee,” said Chairman Chip Forrester. “While they may not have known it at the time, all Tennesseans have benefitted from his exceptional leadership in state government during his time as Speaker and as a Representative of the 81st House District.”
The McWherter Legacy Award will carry a special meaning for Speaker Naifeh. In his farewell address on the floor last week, Speaker Naifeh remembered Gov. McWherter fondly as his mentor in both life and politics. Speaker Naifeh inherited the gavel he held for 18 years at the start of Gov. McWherter’s second term, he then worked to implement the policies of the McWherter administration that improved our education, roads, and health care system in this state for a generation.

Naifeh: Time to ‘Pass the Torch’

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rep. Jimmy Naifeh announced Thursday that he won’t seek re-election after 38 years in the House of Representatives, saying it’s time to “pass the torch to the next generation of leaders.”
Naifeh, who was given the honorary title of speaker emeritus after holding the top House post for 18 years, made the announcement on the House floor.
The Covington Democrat said the late Tennessee Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter, whom Naifeh described as a mentor in politics and life, “always told me when it was time to go home, I’d know it.”
“After talking with my family and friends, I believe the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders,” Naifeh said.
He was elected to the House in 1974 after losing his first bid for office in 1972. He was succeeded as House speaker in 2009 by Republican Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, who edged Rep. Jason Mumpower of Bristol on a vote of 50-49 after all 49 Democrats banded together to support Williams.
Naifeh convinced Williams to seek the speakership and was behind the plan for him to be elected.
“During my one term as speaker … his experience helped me through a very hard two years,” Williams said Thursday on the House floor. “Thank you for all you did.”

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On Jimmy Naifeh’s Retirement Announcement (including text)

House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh announced today that he would not seek election to another term. Here’s the news release issued by his office:
News release:
NASHVILLE – Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) announced today on the House floor that he will not seek re-election to his district 81 seat this fall. Naifeh has served in the House of Representatives for 38-years, 18 of which he spent as Speaker of the House.
“Governor McWherter always told me when it was time to go home, I’d know it. After talking with my family and friends, I believe the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders,” said Speaker Naifeh. “All told, I’ve given 40 years of my life to public service: 38 in the legislature and two as an Infantry Officer in the Army. Now I’m looking forward to a little more time for myself and a lot more time with my grandkids.”
Naifeh was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974, after losing his first bid for office in 1972 by 13 votes. Since that time he has never lost an election. In addition to being the longest serving Speaker of the House in Tennessee history, Naifeh served as Floor Leader, Majority Leader and President of the National Speaker’s Conference.
He has received numerous legislator of the year and service awards during his tenure, including the prestigious William M. Bulger award which is given every other year to one state legislative leader who has worked to preserve and build public trust and whose career embodies the principles of integrity, compassion, vision and courage.
“In all aspects of my life, I’ve always tried to be an effective leader. I think a lot of that stems from my army training. When I came to the House, it was no different. I got into leadership during my second term with the ultimate goal of becoming Speaker. I achieved that goal and I’m proud of what I accomplished during that time.”
Naifeh is a long-time supporter of public education and places the Jimmy Naifeh Center in Covington, a branch of Dyersburg State Community College, among his most proud accomplishments. Outside the legislature Naifeh’s work with St. Jude is well known. For the past 19 years, he has hosted an annual legislative golf tournament in Nashville to benefit ALSAC/St.Jude, where he serves on the Board of Directors.
“My Dad came here from Lebanon and couldn’t even speak English! He always told me what a privilege it was to live in this country and that we had a responsibility to give back. Whether it was my work with St. Jude or in the legislature, I’ve always tried to remember that and use what power I had to improve the lives of everyday people.”
Naifeh has 3 children (Jim, Beth and Sameera) and 6 grandchildren (Sarah, Jay, Sam, Jameson, Jack and Katherine). He plans to explore future options, while spending more time with his grandchildren.
NOTE: More below, including text of Naifeh’s remarks and other news releases.

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